Guwahati: The politics in tribal-dominated hilly state of Meghalaya is just like `musical chair politics’. The state has seen six chief ministers in five years and has a rare distinction that an independent MLA became the chief minister of the state. Flinder Anderson Khonglam, is probably the first independent candidate in the history of Indian politics to become the chief minister of the hilly state. He was sworn in on March 8, 2001, and governed the state for a period of one year eighty-six days.
So in poll-bound Meghalaya, this time around also, the situation is not too different. Party changeover by legislators has become a norm rather than an exception.
With elections knocking at the door, as many as 18 MLAs of Meghalaya have resigned from the Assembly and their respective parties to join other parties.
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The resignation round continued till an hour before the Election Commission announced the voting day from New Delhi on Wednesday.
By 1.30 pm on Wednesday, a total of five other parties, including Meghalaya’s Public Health Minister Renikton Lyngdoh Tongkhar, resigned from the Assembly.
Tongkhar, was an MLA of the Hill State People’s Democratic Party. On the other hand, Trinamool Congress MLAs Sheetlang Pale, suspended Congress MLAs Myralborn Siem and Process T Sockmi, and Independent MLA Lambor Malangiang, submitted their resignation letters to Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh on Wednesday.
“This is a usual scene in Meghalaya, the party crossover is a normal phenomenon and it is also a feature of tribal politics in the state. The changeover is so frequent and blatant that it defies any logic of political democracy,” a Political analyst based in Shillong told ABP Live.
Being a tribal-dominated special category state, where more than 90 per cent of funding comes from the Centre, politics is often dictated by the party that is in power in Delhi.
Under this system, numerous small regional parties come up only to barter their MLA at the numbers game in times of forming the government.
Local parties such as HSPDP and UDP who were part of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government led by the National People’s Party (NPP), have parted ways and are contesting elections separately.
Photo: Pallav Bora Six party-led MDA government completed its full term of five years which is a rarity in Meghalaya politics.
In fact, between 2018-2023, politics in Meghalaya witnessed the biggest defection.
Twelve MLAs led by former congress chief minister Mukul Sangma, who had won the 2018 assembly election as a Congress candidate, joined the Trinamool Congress in November 2021, making the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led party the main opposition in the northeastern state overnight.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the Congress won 21 seats in the 60-member Meghalaya house, but during the last five years, all the MLAs joined other parties, including the Trinamool Congress and the NPP. Out of 12 MLAs of the Trinamool Congress, 5 MLAs have also left the party and joined other parties.
In the meantime, one MLA from NPP joined Trinamool Congress and Trinamool Congress’s MLA strength increased to eight.
Meghalaya will go to polls on February 27. The state has a total of 60 assembly constituencies. The MDA coalition government was formed in Meghalaya after the results of the elections in 2018, but by 2022, all parties had said they were contesting separately.
The author is a senior journalist covering the Northeast.